God has called us for His purpose
Reflections on Advent
"You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand." - James 5:8
In the Roman Catholic faith, and in most of the Christian confessions, a season of Advent is celebrated before Christmas. It is the beginning of a new liturgical year of grace. The word "Advent" comes from the Latin word adventus, which means arrival or coming, usually of something eventful or of someone meaningful and important. In the Roman Catholic faith, it refers specifically to our Lord's coming which we consider as a very important religious and theological event.
It is also very fitting that at the last Sunday before Advent the Solemnity of Christ the King is celebrated, as if to tell and remind us who is coming, whose arrival we are preparing for.
The events in our lives are replete with all kinds of preparations in varying degrees and magnitude. We follow certain rituals and traditions that we were either born into, or we ourselves have devised and developed to suit our convenience and to appropriate certain expediency to the occasion. We go through these habitual formalities before we leave for school or work, before an important appointment, before the celebration of important milestones such as birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries. Substantial and sometimes intricate preparations for funerals are made of our loved ones and of our own. Most, if not all of these realities intrude into our finances. More often than not, they disorient our emotions into some ambivalent feelings that have not confronted us before. These events and their preparations may or may not change us; but the opportunities and possibilities are always there.
When I was a little boy, I remember my mother would always ensure that we went through a certain clean-up ritual on the day of my father's arrival after being away for a few days due to the nature of his intelligence work in the police department. She would make sure that we took a shower, we had clean clothes, and our hair was cut. She would remind us that whatever spat we had with our brothers and sisters should be ended, and that total peace and reconciliation between and among us 7 children be unconditionally established. When my dad arrived, she would proudly present us to him, even vouching for our good behavior while he was away. Of course our delight came from the many presents and gifts he bought us from the places of his assignment.
In my spiritual journey as an adult, especially as a Clergy in the Roman Catholic Church, I have always thought about the wonderful similarity of my childhood experience of waiting for the arrival of my father and the preparations that my mother would religiously follow and the spiritual and liturgical preparations we do during Advent. I feel sad when I see and realize that while we faithfully do all these tireless preparations for the secular events in our lives, some of us would not even bother taking a bit of our time to prepare ourselves for the coming of our Lord, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. My biological mother is no longer here with me. But I still have my mother Church that reminds me, and opens avenues for me, to prepare myself for the coming of my Lord. The clean-up that I went through when I was a little boy became part of the benchmarks for me during Advent and Lent - to clean myself up through the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, make myself acceptable to the one who is coming by being in a state of grace, by reconciling with my other brothers and sisters in Christ, by presenting myself humbly in prayers, by being charitable in heart and giving alms to the poor and contributing to the charitable efforts of the Church.
Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ comes to us in many ways. And He does so not only in Advent but during all the appreciable time that we entertain Him in our minds and hearts:
- By remembering and celebrating His coming as a little baby boy in Bethlehem, His coming to us as a fully human being, an important historical event about 2,000 years ago. This is the coming that we celebrate on Christmas day. When He came down from heaven He was fully divine. After His birth, He became fully divine and fully human. At His Ascension 40 days after His resurrection, He opened the door of heavens for all of us human beings by bringing with Him His full humanity.
- By waiting with expectant and loving hope His coming at the end of time when He will judge both the living and the dead. This is the theme of the Scriptural readings on the 1st Sunday of Advent when we are called by our Mother Church to prepare for His coming.
- His coming to each and everyone of us in the Sacraments of our one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, in the people and events of our daily lives, and in the grace of faith that He has given us and which enables us to call upon Him, to converse with Him in prayers, and to be confident in His promises of lightening our burden, granting what we ask, and of an eternal life and happiness with Him in His heavenly kingdom. Luke's emphasis is that we should be vigilant to recognize and welcome the Lord who comes to us without warning everyday in people, places and events we least expect. If we are preparing for the Lord's coming by looking up to the sky, Luke invites us to look out, to look into the story of our daily lives and recognize the Lord who comes to us in ways we least expect.
We must be prepared to receive Christ in each one of these ways. And the beginning of that preparation is repentance. Unfortunately, our preparations are too often reduced to the necessary secular chores: sending cards, buying gifts, baking cookies, decorating the house. There is nothing wrong with any of these things, but we must never let them overshadow the true significance of the first few weeks of December. Remember that Advent is a penitential season, not unlike the season of Lent. Since Christmas joy often brings with it the delights of rich food and drink, why not make an Advent resolution to abstain from some legitimate pleasure or to give alms to those who are in need.
In addition to the opportunities for private confession, whether at the regularly scheduled times or by appointment, there will be communal penance services in all of our area parishes during the next few weeks. The Church still teaches that if you are conscious of serious sin in your life, you must not receive Holy Communion until you go to confession. So, if you've been away from the Sacrament of Reconciliation for a while, please come back and make things right with the Lord.
He is coming and His presence in our lives is the greatest gift we can ever hope and wish for at Christmas.
Deacon Bob Rosales
Maybe some of us are wondering why in spite of the fact that we have good speakers and leaders, the community is still not growing as it should be. We try to justify that community growth is not based on quantity but on quality. We sometimes forget that quantity is the product of quality.
The big question or challenge is, "Are we really building a Christian Community or just a group?" If we go back to the time of early Christians which we can read on Acts 2: 42-47, we will note how deep and strong the love of every member for one another was. They did not consider what they have as their own but for everyone in the community.
A Christian Community should be a place of love, hope, peace, joy and healing. Everyone should be an instrument of love, more so, a blessing and inspiration to one another. Everybody should speak, act, and work for the salvation of every member. It should not be a place of intrigue, gossip, judgment and condemnation.
We need to TRUST one another as God trusted us so much. We need to understand that we have different levels of spirituality. Our weakness can be the strength of others and their weakness can be our strength. Although our goal is to be perfect, we cannot be, for only God is perfect. Let us accept the truth that we need one another. Let us support the strength of others and help them on their weaknesses. Let us be humble also to accept the truth that we need the help of others to overcome our weaknesses.
False spirituality is when we become self-righteous as if we are the only ones who are good. True spirituality is when love, patience, understanding, and forgiveness go wider. When we learn to accept the strength and weakness of others and accept our own weaknesses, too.
We need to move forward from the emotional level of love to the spiritual level of love. Emotional level of love focuses so much on feelings, emotions and expectations. If this is not satisfied, it leads to frustration and condemnation. Spiritual level of love is to love like Christ, to understand that we need one another. We need to trust the goodness of the person. Let us not forget that whatever and no matter how big the sin of a person is, God is still doing everything for his salvation, as what He is doing for us, up to the point that He even gave His only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to save us. Do not act the other way around, for we have no right to destroy what God is trying to save.
Let us always remember that we are all so precious to God and the value of each one of us is Jesus Himself on the Cross.
Christian Community should be Christ-Love driven!
Bro. Don Quilao